https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2022/04/25/ontarios-ndp-promising-tax-freeze-mental-health-and-dental-care-if-elected.html

Ontario’s NDP — first out of the gate to release its platform for the June 2 election — is promising mental health and dental care, pharmacare as well as a tax freeze for low- and middle-income earners across the province.

However, the ambitious plan — which has a heavy emphasis on health care — is not fully costed, with the party saying it is awaiting this week’s provincial budget and subsequent auditor’s report before releasing full financial details.

“The last few years have been tough,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday. “People are waiting in pain because our health-care system is on its knees. And folks are working harder than ever while the cost of living and the cost of homes makes it impossible to get ahead.

“But it really doesn’t have to be this way. Ontario is the greatest place in the world to live, and together we can start to fix the things that have been broken — the things that matter most to everyday people.”

This platform, she added, “works for people. We’re not promising the moon and the stars — we’re promising that we’re going to work for you … it’s a solid, doable plan that means hope is on the way.”

The party’s election platform includes making the long-term-care system fully public and not-for-profit, with 50,000 new beds over the next eight years.

As reported by the Star’s Robert Benzie, the NDP is looking at freezing taxes for the next four year for those earning around $200,000, but raising taxes for big income earners and corporations.

The party, if elected, would boost access to counselling and therapy and make it publicly funded, also addressing long wait-lists for children’s mental health. In total, the NDP estimates that the universal mental health care would cost $1.15 billion a year when fully implemented.

It would also move ahead with pharmacare and dental care, saying the federal government’s plans on those items are years away. The party plans to spend $475 million annually on pharmacare at the outset, and says it would make cancer drugs free — a current issue for patients who have to cover the cost out of pocket if they aren’t being treated while in hospital.

It pledges to hire 10,000 personal support workers, 30,000 nurses, as well as recruit 400 doctors and specialists specifically for northern Ontario.

The NDP would also bring back full rent control, putting an end to large rent hikes when new tenants move in.

On the education front, it would hire 20,000 teachers and education workers, and cap class sizes at 24 from Grades 4 to 8. It would also scrap full-scale, standardized testing, instead looking at a random sampling across the province.

For post-secondary students, the NDP would return to the previous Liberal government’s large-scale grant or “free tuition” system for lower- and middle-income students, with a longer-term plan to convert all student loans to nonrepayable grants.

That system was scrapped when the PC’s took power in 2018, replaced with a 10 per cent tuition cut and subsequent tuition freeze.

The party says its platform was built with the help of suggestions from thousands of stakeholders and groups, including the small business community.

Among other promises:

  • Banning excessive interest fees on payday loans, establishing a task force to find alternatives and put an end to the current “predatory” system.
  • Minimum wage increases of $1 a year, hitting $20 an hour by 2026.
  • Ensuring the current allocation of $600 million is spent on therapies for children with autism, eventually moving to a system with no spending limits for families.
  • Fixing auto insurance rates to ensure that drivers aren’t penalized because of where they live.
  • Expanding non-profit and public daycare spaces, and forbid private daycares from being a part of the $10-a-day federal/provincial plan.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy